Wearable Art Show at Hawaii Theatre

Native Nattiness: Indigenous art meets haute couture.

photos: courtesy kapulani landgraf

Artist Harinani Orme meticulously sands paint off a child’s BMX helmet.  “I got it at the swap meet. My plan is to build it up and out,” she explains, her hands tracing the form of a large headdress, made of paper, fabrics and found objects. This is the first year Orme will participate in the Maoli Arts Month Wearable Art Show. She says she was inspired by a show-stopping outfit by local designer Carrington “Baba” Yap. “He put together fabric and organic material and treated the models’ bodies like canvases,” she says. “It was wild. I thought, ‘I’ve got to be part of this.’”

The annual show grew out of a month-long celebration of Native Hawaiian art that Vicky Holt Takamine launched in 2006. Takamine says, “We realized that art is not just what we frame and put on a wall. It’s the culture, principles and values that are at the core of who we are that get transferred to the things that we wear.”

Baba Yap.

At this year’s show, the sixth so far, models will strut 21st century takes on ancient, indigenous costuming, with musical and stage direction by Robert Cazimero and Michael Pili Pang. Inspirations range from malo, tattoos and traditional muumuu to contemporary gowns with sculpted bodies.

The local designers, including Manuhealii, Baba Yap, Maile Andrade, Nita Pilago and Keone Nunes, bring a wide range of styles to the show. Yap initially made costumes for his mother’s halau.  “I studied Hawaiian pre-contact fashion,” Yap says. “I take ancient ideas and apply them to modern day.” For past shows he’s transferred tying and wrapping techniques from house building and canoe lashing to weave and knot Lycra strips into garments. Yap says of his designs, “I want it to be fun. I also want the truth of the community and the land to show through.”